Business

US economy adds 151,000 jobs in January

US trucks Image copyright Getty Images

The US economy added 151,000 jobs in January, helping to push the country's unemployment rate down to 4.9%.

The number was lower than expected and is a sharp slowdown from December, when 292,000 jobs were added.

Job losses in transport and education weighed on the numbers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

Last week, figures showed that US economic growth slowed to an annual rate 0.7% in the final three months of 2015, from 2% in the previous quarter.

Trading on Wall Street suggests investors are concerned that the slowdown in job creation could be a further sign of a weakening US economy. The main Dow Jones closed down 215 points, or 1.3%, at 16.201.75.

But some analysts focused on the positive - that weaker job numbers meant another rise in interest rates was unlikely for now.

"I'm a little surprised the markets reacted somewhat negatively to it," said Sean Lynch at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

"It is actually a pretty good number that should be welcomed by the equity markets, it takes some of the concern the Fed moves too quickly off the table a little bit."

President Obama highlighted the low unemployment rate as he plugged aspects of his spending bill to be proposed next week. He plans to push for greater investment in clean energy, where jobs growth has been strong.

The president acknowledged that there was still anxiety among Americans, but said the US economy was "stronger and more durable" then before the financial crisis.

'Shockingly good'

Retailing saw the highest number of jobs created in January, at 58,000, with healthcare adding 37,000 and manufacturing 29,000.

Some 39,000 jobs were lost in private education services, however, with a further 20,000 lost in transport and warehousing.

The net job creation pushed the unemployment rate below 5% - where it had stood for the previous three months - to its lowest level since early 2008.

The labour participation rate was unchanged, suggesting fewer people are dropping out of the labour market - a key problem during the financial crisis.

The average hourly rate rose by 12 cents, or 0.5%, to $25.39, which Greg Anderson at BMO Capital Markets described as "shockingly good".

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